Indianapolis Star Column by Matthew Tully


Who's Willing to Pay the Price for Safety?


We're building a new football stadium on the edge of Downtown. When that's done, we're going to build a better Convention Center.

Not far from that construction excitement, we're building a grand library in one direction, and essentially a new airport in another.

Thanks to government, there's quite a little building boom in Indianapolis these days.

But we won't build a new jail or a new criminal justice center?

Ahh, priorities.

This, even as jail crowding continues to be the county's most shameful problem, causing the early release of hundreds of inmates every month.

But don't just blame the politicians -- unless you're willing to see your taxes go up, that is. Because the only way out of this mess is by taking more cash out of your weary wallet.

Just ask Doris Anne Sadler. She is the Marion County clerk and one local official who is leading on this infuriating issue.

I called her Friday, after spending 24 hours seething over the case of William Temple. He's the convicted sex offender who was released from jail on July 2 and now faces new charges of abusing two children.

One of his alleged victims is a 4-year-old girl. A little girl who now has a world of pain to live with for the rest of her life.

I was thinking about the girl when I called the clerk's office.

I was hoping Sadler, who has won bipartisan praise for her work on the jail situation, would endorse my basic instinct -- that we need a bigger jail, a big honking warehouse where we can lock up all the people like William Temple.

We could call it The Lucas Oil Lockup.

But Sadler didn't endorse my idea. A new jail, she said, "might help in the short term. But it won't be the solution."

She wasn't suggesting we sit back and wait, though.

The permanent solution, she said, is a new criminal justice complex. A series of connected buildings filled with coordinated courts and jails and juvenile facilities. A complex that would streamline and organize an inefficient criminal justice system.

The key is a fast-moving system that gets inmates through the process more quickly. The key is lessening jail crowding by making sure the jail is a temporary home for inmates, and not a longtime residence. The guilty should be tried and moved to state prison more quickly. Problem is, Sadler said, "no one is even willing to discuss it because it costs a lot of money."

Well, count me as one person who wants to discuss it. Taxes may scare some people out of Marion County, but crime is going to scare even more.

While Sadler talks about a new justice complex, Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is counter-clamoring for more jail beds.

Who is right? Too early to say. We need a debate -- quickly -- to find the best solution. But we don't need a debate to determine whether or not a tax increase must be part of any serious solution.

It must be.

You might not like it. I understand. I don't like tax increases, either. But I'll take a tax increase over the early release of child molesters.

Wouldn't you agree?